Walter Arlen is now almost 100 years old – and the entire century comes to life again together with his stories and his music. Walter Arlen’s First 100 Years paints an affectionate and multifaceted picture of a musician exiled in 1938, who only recently got to see his works performed late in life.
The film trails Mr. Arlen’s life, beginning as a prodigious child in Vienna, through the harrowing story of survival and escape during Nazi times and all the way to his modern life as a retired music critic of the Los Angeles times. The narrative flowed freely encouraging many moments of gratifying laughter, while capturing the fine nuances of old-Viennese dialect (you know they call persimmons “Kaki” these days – now that can’t be German!).
There were the dolorous moments as well: the heart-throbbing suicide of his mother and degrading familial events, such as the aunt who had to publicly clean the sidewalks with a toothbrush. With today’s looming social and cultural madness, it is a treasure to have a living Holocaust survivor of this stature tell his story with the utmost of sincerity and understanding. Apparently, over 700 hours of footage had to be compressed into an hour!